It calms, it reduces pain, it reduces anxiety, it connects… in many ways it is the same for anyone who is ill or elderly, but oncology also covers a wide range of challenges for the therapist.
Medical devices such as ports, illeostomy bags, medicines w/numerous side effects, compromised lymph systems, and physical movement limitations are all par for the course when you work with clients going through cancer treatment.
So what do we do? That depends on each individual client. A detailed intake is essential. Finding out what their treatment consists of–which affects, positioning on the table or bed, speed of strokes used, pressure used, and being aware of any medical device we might have to avoid dislodging. Find out if they had surgery that might leave incision sights we need to avoid, areas of decreased sensation, or depth and pressure contraindications.
For many of the healthier clients only minor adjustments might be needed and perhaps modifying a position now and again or watching pressure in a compromised lymph zone is enough. For others you’ll spend a good deal of time just getting them comfortable on the table or bed and work gently on what parts of the body can handle touch. There is no one size fits all for any of it.
Once we are aware of what approach is required we must make the adjustments and focus all our energy on providing a relaxing and supportive massage. Because above all, that is what the massage is about. Not about their complications, or limitations, but about helping the client remember they are a person in a body that can (for at least for a short time) experience peace and rest.